Before I begin, I honor those who ran in to the Towers when others were running out, I honor those who defend my country every day so that we can be free, and I honor those on Flight 93 who refused to accept this senseless act sitting idly by. You are all truly my heroes. My thoughts and prayers go out to all those who lost a loved one, a friend, a colleague. I thank my three cousins who enlisted as Marines and who have all served time in Iraq.
This is a hard day for many of us. The raw emotion that all who have posted before me is evident; I feel your sadness, anger and pain and appreciate the care and way you've chosen to express yourselves. Please forgive my wordiness in advance...I've never written any of this down before.
I was working in White Plains, NY on September 11. White Plains is 30 minutes north of NYC in Westchester County. My mom passed away on August 7 and I had just returned to work a couple of weeks before. My girlfriend Kim called me to tell me that "something was going on" at the World Trade Center. She worked in Liberty Plaza for Deutsche Bank, right across the street from the Towers. She said that the building was being evacuated and would call me when she got outside. Fifteen minutes later, she called again to tell me that she was going back in, that the OK had been given to return to work. I remember very clearly that my instinct told me that something was very wrong and I begged her not to go back in. I told her to just get away from the area and to get out of NYC. She didn't listen and went back inside.
By now, the world knew what had happened, and when she called me a little while later to tell me that "pieces of the Towers are hitting my building" and they were being evacuated, I told her what had happened. We would not speak again for several hours.
I managed to get through to my brother and cousin, both working in midtown. My sister in law was down town for a meeting (she works on Long Island and never had to come into NYC, not once in 5 years). Somehow, with cell service increasingly becoming unavailable, we managed to get her in touch with my girlfriend and they made their way up to my brother and cousin. When my brother's boss saw what Kim looked like (she was filthy, covered with soot and even some blood), he send an intern out to buy her some new clothes. Then they all got on a subway (service was soon to be suspended) and got out of Manhattan and into Queens. I later picked her up at a buddy's house.
Since I was commuting via Metro-North RR to grand Central Station, I had to be driven home. My VP called for a car service. The driver happened to be of Arab descent. As we were getting onto the Whitestone Bridge, we could see Manhattan. The smoke cloud that covered the island served as the pinch I needed - this was really happening. The silence and embarassment this man felt, knowing who caused this, was evident. I'll never forget that car ride. It was strange driving to work the next few days, with public transportation suspeneded, not hearing any planes overhead and having the car searched every time I got to the bridge.
With my mom passing away, you can imagine how my family and I already felt. Now came the news that a child hood friend of ours, Peter Brennan, was missing. He was with rescue 4 and was into the Tower at the outset. His wife has just found out she was pregnant. My dad was extremely emotional over everything that was happening. He called a friend of ours, a private investigator and an ex-NYPD Lieutenant, and asked him to take him to Ground Zero. In the car they went and, along they way, they made a stop to pick someone up. It turned out to be Vinny Testaverde. He was along to see the "bucket brigade" crews and to lend some emotional help.
All day my Dad walked with these men, saw the effect Testaverde had on them, and they on him. He was allowed to shovel some debris and dump it into a bucket. He walked to Kim's building and, in the ash and dust, inscribed "Peter Brennan, 9/11/01" and "Barbara Iadanza, 8/7/01." He then turned around towards his group and completely broke down. Vinny Testaverde hugged my dad the entire trip back to Long Island.
Many things changed that day for all of us. The world changed as well. I am thankful my girlfriend survived that day, as she is now my wife and the mother of our 15 month old baby girl.
I love this nation, our ideals and what we represent. To those who criticize our efforts abroad, I remind you to consider what you felt on this day, six years ago, I remind you of all the pain and suffering these senseless acts caused and I ask you to support our troops and to support your President.